'Avatar' Producer Jon Landau Calls on Apple, China to Embrace 3D

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Landau says converted 2D films should be labeled as such to avoid sullying true 3D technology.

SINGAPORE – Avatar producer Jon Landau is calling for grading of converted “fake” 3D and truth in advertising to weed out cheats -- get ready for 2.4D and 2.8D. And Steve Jobs might want start banging out the next generation of iPad 3D.

Attending the inaugural edition of ScreenSingapore to speak at a 3D seminar, Landau told The Hollywood Reporter that even for the converted Titanic slated in 2012, the best he and director James Cameron can do is 2.8D.

“Like colorization, it’s never true color; a conversion will never be true 3D. You don’t have all of that information. So you’re cheating. How good can you fake it? The more time you have, the better it can be. [For Titanic in 3D,] we’re creating an illusion of 3D to begin with, so if we can create something by spending a year converting it, and ending up with this 2.8D, the difference might be imperceptible to the movie going audience. If we rush to do it, while we try to finish up all the rest of post-production, then we might end up with 2.4D, and that’s not going to look good," he said.

After Titanic, the next in line for a 3D makeover would be Terminator 2, says Landau. But with Titanic and Avatar 2 & 3, where Jake and Neytiri explore new parts and see new creatures of Pandora, liquid metal squishing in 3D is still years away. On the technological side, apart from the higher frame rates, the producer and his partner Cameron are looking into ways to bring 3D gaming into the home, and increasing the efficiency of their virtual production for the upcoming Avatar films by creating more lighting tools and working with companies such as Autodesk and Weta Digital.

As for inferior converted 3D products that flood the market place, Landau says they should be made to label themselves as such.

“Now you see advertising that says RealD 3D, IMAX 3D, maybe you just say, ‘converted to 3D.' We’re not going to shy away from it with Titanic. We spend the time to do it right. You’ve got to be honest with your consumers.”

In the long run though, Landau believes inferior products converted from 2D would eventually disappear. “Audiences are smarter than studios give them credit for, and they know when a movie is done properly with 3D, and they’ll seek them out. We live in a day and age where information disseminate so quickly, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, if a movie opens on Friday night and the 3D is not good, people will know it by Friday night,” he notes.

“There are no good movies with bad 3D. There are just bad movies with bad 3D. It’s like focus. You don’t see out of focus movies. You’re not going to see bad 3D. If something is out of focus, you’re squinting, it’s hurting your eyes. All you have to do is to focus it. It’s the same thing with 3D,” Landau adds.

Landau stresses that 3D for film is equivalent to the introduction of color film stock, and black and white television being phased out by color television sets. And Steve Jobs might also want to take note. “All of our screens would be in 3D. For computers, Macintosh is a poor man’s version of 3D. You have a window here, another program there, and you click through them. Why not make it into a real 3D space? You could reach in and you can pull this or that one forward. That’s going to happen. It’s only natural.”

“People in the future are going to demand their content in 3D. Unless you create it now, you’d have to convert it later. Right now we don’t have the distribution network to get 3D into the home, but it’s starting to happen. But if a network starts doing it, for example, Desperate Housewives in 3D, that’s going to take hold.

Landau thinks that the arrival of iPad 3D is not a matter of if, but when. “It’s a single viewer experience. 3D without glasses is best for the single viewer. In all the things that we love that are moving around on our iPads now, it could be all that much engaging. It goes back to advertising, to put you there longer. 3D does that, because it engages you.”

All contents would sooner or later be in 3D, Landau says. “European sports are all shifting to 3D. Soccer, racing, even cricket. What 3D does for live events is to make the audience feels as if you were there. As traveling becomes more expensive, and parts of the world more dangerous, you don’t have to do that. 3D is going to give you the same sense of being there.”

Coming in to pass on his pioneer experience in 3D to Asia, Landau has advice for China to develop a healthy 3D filmmaking environment. China can encourage young Chinese filmmakers to work in 3D and introduce more 3D Hollywood products into the country.

"What works would be an open door policy to invite American companies that have the 3D technologies now, to come over and be a part of the educational process, and opening of more 3D content not from China to come into China, but to create an opportunity for Chinese filmmakers to see more of these movies and make judgments of what is and is not working in 3D. Only from experiencing can they tell,” Landau says.